“Oh, for the love of… C’mon!”
Where was all this traffic coming from? Derek pounded the wheel in frustration, knowing he’d really blown it this time. This time… yeah. More like he’d really blown it AGAIN. But he’d driven this route to work umpteen thousand times before and never saw traffic like this. “There’s gotta be a wreck up there, all the fates conspiring against me… again, and of all days to be backed up!
(You work mids, stupid! Of course there’s no traffic most days. Everyone’s getting ready for bed when you go to work)
The sound of his own mind-voice (insulting though it might be) calmed him a little… at least it calmed the blaming of random gods conspiring with certain unknown mere mortals hell-bent on waylaying him. And then he just felt sad…
“Who am I kidding? I’m no sergeant. I only took the damned test because Jeannie thought I might make a good boss – because she’s so eager to ‘see me finally reach my potential’ and all that – but who needs the headaches? Really, who needs it… having a crew always bitching about this or that, and lieutenants crawling all over you about your crew? Talk about a thankless job; I should just go home, go to bed, hit the road tonight, and tell Jeannie to be satisfied being married to one of the best butt-kickin’, name-takin’, DUI-sniffin’ road dawgs there is! And what’s wrong with being a patrol cop, anyway? Nothing, that’s what!”
(Nice pep talk, dummy. Are YOU even buying what you’re selling?)
His vision blurred behind hot tears (You’re gonna cry now!?! Really? Okay, I’m outta here, Sally!) as he admitted that, yes, he’d really like to be a sergeant. He’d be good at it. He was smart. He was an awesome mentor. He was ready. (And you’re stuck in traffic 20 minutes away from an oral interview that started six minutes ago. Sorry. Yeah, I was going. Loser-boy here can fend for himself, it’s not like he listens to me).
The next twenty minutes were brutal as Derek replayed the oh-so familiar medley of decades old disappointments and regrets… the college degree he never finished; the baseball scholarship he walked away from – the very year he’d finally inherited a starting spot; the pro tryout his uncle, an old AAA player himself, scored him but he never showed for; the investigations (and traffic… and school resource officer… and DT instructor) gigs he let fall through the cracks; all the assignments he KNEW he’d be great at but never put in for.
Derek hustled toward the Merit Board offices, concocting a semi-believable story to account for the tardiness as he ran, when a strong hand grabbed his elbow, spinning him around to face his scowling lieutenant. “Really? I put my neck out on your behalf with my word ‘cuz, despite everything, you’re a good cop and I know you’d be a good boss, but you keep on… Forget it, Derek, they went to lunch. They have a lot of SERIOUS candidates to talk to this afternoon. Go home. Get some sleep. I’ll see you tonight. And don’t EVER ask me for a favor like this again…”
Why do some people “self-defeat?” What is it that causes intelligent, talented, seemingly-got-it-all-going-on folks to flame out in the moment of truth? This has been a question researchers have asked for some time, and with limited success answering, but one that bears asking, if for no other reason than it continues to be a major impediment to the success of otherwise talented people.
Last month we looked at two men who each managed significant flame-outs: Anthony Weiner, well known wiener-tweeter, and a deputy chief in a local police department close to us in Illinois. They stick out, but each of us knows someone (perhaps even that “man in the mirror”) whose potential remains unfulfilled not because of circumstance or bad luck but rather their own bad choices. We may even know someone with whom we work in law enforcement – somewhat ironic since the profession tends to work very hard at selecting the most physically, mentally, and psychologically sound from the applicant pool, but nevertheless true – who remains stuck in place because of self-defeating behaviors.